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Inferno (English)

Written by: Dante Alighieri | Biography
 | Quotes (37) |

 ONE night, when half my life behind me lay, 
 I wandered from the straight lost path afar. 
 Through the great dark was no releasing way; 
 Above that dark was no relieving star. 
 If yet that terrored night I think or say, 
 As death's cold hands its fears resuming are. 

 Gladly the dreads I felt, too dire to tell, 
 The hopeless, pathless, lightless hours forgot, 
 I turn my tale to that which next befell, 
 When the dawn opened, and the night was not. 
 The hollowed blackness of that waste, God wot, 
 Shrank, thinned, and ceased. A blinding splendour hot 
 Flushed the great height toward which my footsteps fell, 
 And though it kindled from the nether hell, 
 Or from the Star that all men leads, alike 
 It showed me where the great dawn-glories strike 
 The wide east, and the utmost peaks of snow. 

 How first I entered on that path astray, 
 Beset with sleep, I know not. This I know. 
 When gained my feet the upward, lighted way, 
 I backward gazed, as one the drowning sea, 
 The deep strong tides, has baffled, and panting lies, 
 On the shelved shore, and turns his eyes to see 
 The league-wide wastes that held him. So mine eyes 
 Surveyed that fear, the while my wearied frame 
 Rested, and ever my heart's tossed lake became 
 More quiet. 
 Then from that pass released, which yet 
 With living feet had no man left, I set 
 My forward steps aslant the steep, that so, 
 My right foot still the lower, I climbed. 

 No more I gazed. Around, a slope of sand 
 Was sterile of all growth on either hand, 
 Or moving life, a spotted pard except, 
 That yawning rose, and stretched, and purred and leapt 
 So closely round my feet, that scarce I kept 
 The course I would. 
 That sleek and lovely thing, 
 The broadening light, the breath of morn and spring, 
 The sun, that with his stars in Aries lay, 
 As when Divine Love on Creation's day 
 First gave these fair things motion, all at one 
 Made lightsome hope; but lightsome hope was none 
 When down the slope there came with lifted head 
 And back-blown mane and caverned mouth and red, 
 A lion, roaring, all the air ashake 
 That heard his hunger. Upward flight to take 
 No heart was mine, for where the further way 
 Mine anxious eyes explored, a she-wolf lay, 
 That licked lean flanks, and waited. Such was she 
 In aspect ruthless that I quaked to see, 
 And where she lay among her bones had brought 
 So many to grief before, that all my thought 
 Aghast turned backward to the sunless night 
 I left. But while I plunged in headlong flight 
 To that most feared before, a shade, or man 
 (Either he seemed), obstructing where I ran, 
 Called to me with a voice that few should know, 
 Faint from forgetful silence, "Where ye go, 
 Take heed. Why turn ye from the upward way?" 

 I cried, "Or come ye from warm earth, or they 
 The grave hath taken, in my mortal need 
 Have mercy thou!" 
 He answered, "Shade am I, 
 That once was man; beneath the Lombard sky, 
 In the late years of Julius born, and bred 
 In Mantua, till my youthful steps were led 
 To Rome, where yet the false gods lied to man; 
 And when the great Augustan age began, 
 I wrote the tale of Ilium burnt, and how 
 Anchises' son forth-pushed a venturous prow, 
 Seeking unknown seas. But in what mood art thou 
 To thus return to all the ills ye fled, 
 The while the mountain of thy hope ahead 
 Lifts into light, the source and cause of all 
 Delectable things that may to man befall?" 

 I answered, "Art thou then that Virgil, he 
 From whom all grace of measured speech in me 
 Derived? O glorious and far-guiding star! 
 Now may the love-led studious hours and long 
 In which I learnt how rich thy wonders are, 
 Master and Author mine of Light and Song, 
 Befriend me now, who knew thy voice, that few 
 Yet hearken. All the name my work hath won 
 Is thine of right, from whom I learned. To thee, 
 Abashed, I grant it. . . Why the mounting sun 
 No more I seek, ye scarce should ask, who see 
 The beast that turned me, nor faint hope have I 
 To force that passage if thine aid deny." 
 He answered, "Would ye leave this wild and live, 
 Strange road is ours, for where the she-wolf lies 
 Shall no man pass, except the path he tries 
 Her craft entangle. No way fugitive 
 Avoids the seeking of her greeds, that give 
 Insatiate hunger, and such vice perverse 
 As makes her leaner while she feeds, and worse 
 Her craving. And the beasts with which she breed 
 The noisome numerous beasts her lusts require, 
 Bare all the desirable lands in which she feeds; 
 Nor shall lewd feasts and lewder matings tire 
 Until she woos, in evil hour for her, 
 The wolfhound that shall rend her. His desire 
 Is not for rapine, as the promptings stir 
 Of her base heart; but wisdoms, and devoirs 
 Of manhood, and love's rule, his thoughts prefer. 
 The Italian lowlands he shall reach and save, 
 For which Camilla of old, the virgin brave, 
 Turnus and Nisus died in strife. His chase 
 He shall not cease, nor any cowering-place 
 Her fear shall find her, till he drive her back, 
 From city to city exiled, from wrack to wrack 
 Slain out of life, to find the native hell 
 Whence envy loosed her. 
 For thyself were
 To follow where I lead, and thou shalt see 
 The spirits in pain, and hear the hopeless woe, 
 The unending cries, of those whose only plea 
 Is judgment, that the second death to be 
 Fall quickly. Further shalt thou climb, and go 
 To those who burn, but in their pain content 
 With hope of pardon; still beyond, more high, 
 Holier than opens to such souls as I, 
 The Heavens uprear; but if thou wilt, is one 
 Worthier, and she shall guide thee there, where none 
 Who did the Lord of those fair realms deny 
 May enter. There in his city He dwells, and there 
 Rules and pervades in every part, and calls 
 His chosen ever within the sacred walls. 
 O happiest, they!" 
 I answered, "By that Go 
 Thou didst not know, I do thine aid entreat, 
 And guidance, that beyond the ills I meet 
 I safety find, within the Sacred Gate 
 That Peter guards, and those sad souls to see 
 Who look with longing for their end to be." 

 Then he moved forward, and behind I trod. 

Canto II

 THE day was falling, and the darkening air 
 Released earth's creatures from their toils, while I, 
 I only, faced the bitter road and bare 
 My Master led. I only, must defy 
 The powers of pity, and the night to be. 
 So thought I, but the things I came to see, 
 Which memory holds, could never thought forecast. 
 O Muses high! O Genius, first and last! 
 Memories intense! Your utmost powers combine 
 To meet this need. For never theme as mine 
 Strained vainly, where your loftiest nobleness 
 Must fail to be sufficient. 
 I said, 
 Fearing, to him who through the darkness led, 
 "O poet, ere the arduous path ye press 
 Too far, look in me, if the worth there be 
 To make this transit. &Aelig;neas once, I know, 
 Went down in life, and crossed the infernal sea; 
 And if the Lord of All Things Lost Below 
 Allowed it, reason seems, to those who see 
 The enduring greatness of his destiny, 
 Who in the Empyrean Heaven elect was called 
 Sire of the Eternal City, that throned and walled 
 Made Empire of the world beyond, to be 
 The Holy Place at last, by God's decree, 
 Where the great Peter's follower rules. For he 
 Learned there the causes of his victory. 

 "And later to the third great Heaven was caught 
 The last Apostle, and thence returning brought 
 The proofs of our salvation. But, for me, 
 I am not &Aelig;neas, nay, nor Paul, to see 
 Unspeakable things that depths or heights can show, 
 And if this road for no sure end I go 
 What folly is mine? But any words are weak. 
 Thy wisdom further than the things I speak 
 Can search the event that would be." 
 Here I
 My steps amid the darkness, and the Shade 
 That led me heard and turned, magnanimous, 
 And saw me drained of purpose halting thus, 
 And answered, "If thy coward-born thoughts be clear, 
 And all thy once intent, infirmed of fear, 
 Broken, then art thou as scared beasts that shy 
 From shadows, surely that they know not why 
 Nor wherefore. . . Hearken, to confound thy fear, 
 The things which first I heard, and brought me here. 
 One came where, in the Outer Place, I dwell, 
 Suspense from hope of Heaven or fear of Hell, 
 Radiant in light that native round her clung, 
 And cast her eyes our hopeless Shades among 
 (Eyes with no earthly like but heaven's own blue), 
 And called me to her in such voice as few 
 In that grim place had heard, so low, so clear, 
 So toned and cadenced from the Utmost Sphere, 
 The Unattainable Heaven from which she came. 
 'O Mantuan Spirit,' she said, 'whose lasting fame 
 Continues on the earth ye left, and still 
 With Time shall stand, an earthly friend to me, 
 - My friend, not fortune's - climbs a path so ill 
 That all the night-bred fears he hastes to flee 
 Were kindly to the thing he nears. The tale 
 Moved through the peace of I leaven, and swift I sped 
 Downward, to aid my friend in love's avail, 
 With scanty time therefor, that half I dread 
 Too late I came. But thou shalt haste, and go 
 With golden wisdom of thy speech, that so 
 For me be consolation. Thou shalt say, 
 "I come from Beatric?." Downward far, 
 From Heaven to I leaven I sank, from star to star, 
 To find thee, and to point his rescuing way. 
 Fain would I to my place of light return; 
 Love moved me from it, and gave me power to learn 
 Thy speech. When next before my Lord I stand 
 I very oft shall praise thee.' 
 she ceased, 
 And I gave answer to that dear command, 
 'Lady, alone through whom the whole race of those 
 The smallest Heaven the moon's short orbits hold 
 Excels in its creation, not thy least, 
 Thy lightest wish in this dark realm were told 
 Vainly. But show me why the Heavens unclose 
 To loose thee from them, and thyself content 
 Couldst thus continue in such strange descent 
 From that most Spacious Place for which ye burn, 
 And while ye further left, would fain return.' 

 " 'That which thou wouldst,' she said, 'I briefly tell. 
 There is no fear nor any hurt in Hell, 
 Except that it be powerful. God in me 
 Is gracious, that the piteous sights I see 
 I share not, nor myself can shrink to feel 
 The flame of all this burning. One there is 
 In height among the Holiest placed, and she 
 - Mercy her name - among God's mysteries 
 Dwells in the midst, and hath the power to see 
 His judgments, and to break them. This sharp 
 I tell thee, when she saw, she called, that so 
 Leaned Lucia toward her while she spake - and said, 
 "One that is faithful to thy name is sped, 
 Except that now ye aid him." She thereat, 
 - Lucia, to all men's wrongs inimical - 
 Left her High Place, and crossed to where I sat 
 In speech with Rachel (of the first of all 
 God saved). "O Beatrice, Praise of God," 
 - So said she to me - "sitt'st thou here so slow 
 To aid him, once on earth that loved thee so 
 That all he left to serve thee? Hear'st thou not 
 The anguish of his plaint? and dost not see, 
 By that dark stream that never seeks a sea, 
 The death that threats him?" 
 None, as thus she
 None ever was swift on earth his good to chase, 
 None ever on earth was swift to leave his dread, 
 As came I downward from that sacred place 
 To find thee and invoke thee, confident 
 Not vainly for his need the gold were spent 
 Of thy word-wisdom.' Here she turned away, 
 Her bright eyes clouded with their tears, and I, 
 Who saw them, therefore made more haste to reach 
 The place she told, and found thee. Canst thou say 
 I failed thy rescue? Is the beast anigh 
 From which ye quailed? When such dear saints beseech 
 - Three from the Highest - that Heaven thy course allow 
 Why halt ye fearful? In such guards as thou 
 The faintest-hearted might be bold." 

 As flowers, 
 Close-folded through the cold and lightless hours, 
 Their bended stems erect, and opening fair 
 Accept the white light and the warmer air 
 Of morning, so my fainting heart anew 
 Lifted, that heard his comfort. Swift I spake, 
 "O courteous thou, and she compassionate! 
 Thy haste that saved me, and her warning true, 
 Beyond my worth exalt me. Thine I make 
 My will. In concord of one mind from now, 
 O Master and my Guide, where leadest thou 
 I follow." 
 And we, with no more words' delay, 
 Went forward on that hard and dreadful way. 

Canto III 

 THE gateway to the city of Doom. Through me 
 The entrance to the Everlasting Pain. 
 The Gateway of the Lost. The Eternal Three 
 Justice impelled to build me. Here ye see 
 Wisdom Supreme at work, and Primal Power, 
 And Love Supernal in their dawnless day. 
 Ere from their thought creation rose in flower 
 Eternal first were all things fixed as they. 
 Of Increate Power infinite formed am I 
 That deathless as themselves I do not die. 
 Justice divine has weighed: the doom is clear. 
 All hope renounce, ye lost, who enter here. 
 This scroll in gloom above the gate I read, 
 And found it fearful. "Master, hard," I said, 
 "This saying to me." And he, as one that long 
 Was customed, answered, "No distrust must wrong 
 Its Maker, nor thy cowarder mood resume 
 If here ye enter. This the place of doom 
 I told thee, where the lost in darkness dwell. 
 Here, by themselves divorced from light, they fell, 
 And are as ye shall see them." Here he lent 
 A hand to draw me through the gate, and bent 
 A glance upon my fear so confident 
 That I, too nearly to my former dread 
 Returned, through all my heart was comforted, 
 And downward to the secret things we went. 

 Downward to night, but not of moon and cloud, 
 Not night with all its stars, as night we know, 
 But burdened with an ocean-weight of woe 
 The darkness closed us. 
 Sighs, and wailings loud, 
 Outcries perpetual of recruited pain, 
 Sounds of strange tongues, and angers that remain 
 Vengeless for ever, the thick and clamorous crowd 
 Of discords pressed, that needs I wept to hear, 
 First hearing. There, with reach of hands anear, 
 And voices passion-hoarse, or shrilled with fright, 
 The tumult of the everlasting night, 
 As sand that dances in continual wind, 
 Turns on itself for ever. 
 And I, my head 
 Begirt with movements, and my ears bedinned 
 With outcries round me, to my leader said, 
 "Master, what hear I? Who so overborne 
 With woes are these?" 
 He answered, "These be they 
 That praiseless lived and blameless. Now the scorn 
 Of Height and Depth alike, abortions drear; 
 Cast with those abject angels whose delay 
 To join rebellion, or their Lord defend, 
 Waiting their proved advantage, flung them here. - 
 Chased forth from Heaven, lest else its beauties end 
 The pure perfection of their stainless claim, 
 Out-herded from the shining gate they came, 
 Where the deep hells refused them, lest the lost 
 Boast something baser than themselves." 

 And I, 
 "Master, what grievance hath their failure cost, 
 That through the lamentable dark they cry?" 

 He answered, "Briefly at a thing not worth 
 We glance, and pass forgetful. Hope in death 
 They have not. Memory of them on the earth 
 Where once they lived remains not. Nor the breath 
 Of Justice shall condemn, nor Mercy plead, 
 But all alike disdain them. That they know 
 Themselves so mean beneath aught else constrains 
 The envious outcries that too long ye heed. 
 Move past, but speak not." 
 Then I looked, and
 Were souls in ceaseless and unnumbered trains 
 That past me whirled unending, vainly led 
 Nowhither, in useless and unpausing haste. 
 A fluttering ensign all their guide, they chased 
 Themselves for ever. I had not thought the dead, 
 The whole world's dead, so many as these. I saw 
 The shadow of him elect to Peter's seat 
 Who made the great refusal, and the law, 
 The unswerving law that left them this retreat 
 To seal the abortion of their lives, became 
 Illumined to me, and themselves I knew, 
 To God and all his foes the futile crew 
 How hateful in their everlasting shame. 

 I saw these victims of continued death 
 - For lived they never - were naked all, and loud 
 Around them closed a never-ceasing cloud 
 Of hornets and great wasps, that buzzed and clung, 
 - Weak pain for weaklings meet, - and where they stung, 
 Blood from their faces streamed, with sobbing breath, 
 And all the ground beneath with tears and blood 
 Was drenched, and crawling in that loathsome mud 
 There were great worms that drank it. 
 I gazed far forward. Dark and wide the flood 
 That flowed before us. On the nearer shore 
 Were people waiting. "Master, show me whence 
 These came, and who they be, and passing hence 
 Where go they? Wherefore wait they there content, 
 - The faint light shows it, - for their transit o'er 
 The unbridged abyss?" 
 He answered, "When we stand 
 Together, waiting on the joyless strand, 
 In all it shall be told thee." If he meant 
 Reproof I know not, but with shame I bent 
 My downward eyes, and no more spake until 
 The bank we reached, and on the stream beheld 
 A bark ply toward us. 
 Of exceeding eld, 
 And hoary showed the steersman, screaming shrill, 
 With horrid glee the while he neared us, "Woe 
 To ye, depraved! - Is here no Heaven, but ill 
 The place where I shall herd ye. Ice and fire 
 And darkness are the wages of their hire 
 Who serve unceasing here - But thou that there 
 Dost wait though live, depart ye. Yea, forbear! 
 A different passage and a lighter fare 
 Is destined thine." 
 But here my guide replied, 
 "Nay, Charon, cease; or to thy grief ye chide. 
 It There is willed, where that is willed shall be, 
 That ye shall pass him to the further side, 
 Nor question more." 
 The fleecy cheeks thereat, 
 Blown with fierce speech before, were drawn and flat, 
 And his flame-circled eyes subdued, to hear 
 That mandate given. But those of whom he spake 
 In bitter glee, with naked limbs ashake, 
 And chattering teeth received it. Seemed that then 
 They first were conscious where they came, and fear 
 Abject and frightful shook them; curses burst 
 In clamorous discords forth; the race of men, 
 Their parents, and their God, the place, the time, 
 Of their conceptions and their births, accursed 
 Alike they called, blaspheming Heaven. But yet 
 Slow steps toward the waiting bark they set, 
 With terrible wailing while they moved. And so 
 They came reluctant to the shore of woe 
 That waits for all who fear not God, and not 
 Them only. 
 Then the demon Charon rose 
 To herd them in, with eyes that furnace-hot 
 Glowed at the task, and lifted oar to smite 
 Who lingered. 
 As the leaves, when autumn shows, 
 One after one descending, leave the bough, 
 Or doves come downward to the call, so now 
 The evil seed of Adam to endless night, 
 As Charon signalled, from the shore's bleak height, 
 Cast themselves downward to the bark. The brown 
 And bitter flood received them, and while they passed 
 Were others gathering, patient as the last, 
 Not conscious of their nearing doom. 

 "My son," 
 - Replied my guide the unspoken thought - "is none 
 Beneath God's wrath who dies in field or town, 
 Or earth's wide space, or whom the waters drown, 
 But here he cometh at last, and that so spurred 
 By Justice, that his fear, as those ye heard, 
 Impels him forward like desire. Is not 
 One spirit of all to reach the fatal spot 
 That God's love holdeth, and hence, if Char 
 Ye well may take it. - Raise thy heart, for now, 
 Constrained of Heaven, he must thy course allow." 

 Yet how I passed I know not. For the ground 
 Trembled that heard him, and a fearful sound 
 Of issuing wind arose, and blood-red light 
 Broke from beneath our feet, and sense and sight 
 Left me. The memory with cold sweat once more 
 Reminds me of the sudden-crimsoned night, 
 As sank I senseless by the dreadful shore. 

Canto IV 

 ARISING thunder from the vast Abyss 
 First roused me, not as he that rested wakes 
 From slumbrous hours, but one rude fury shakes 
 Untimely, and around I gazed to know 
 The place of my confining. 
 Deep, profound, 
 Dark beyond sight, and choked with doleful sound, 
 Sheer sank the Valley of the Lost Abyss, 
 Beneath us. On the utmost brink we stood, 
 And like the winds of some unresting wood 
 The gathered murmur from those depths of woe 
 Soughed upward into thunder. Out from this 
 The unceasing sound comes ever. I might not tell 
 How deep the Abyss down sank from hell to hell, 
 It was so clouded and so dark no sight 
 Could pierce it. 
 "Downward through the worlds of night 
 We will descend together. I first, and thou 
 My footsteps taking," spake my guide, and I 
 Gave answer, "Master, when thyself art pale, 
 Fear-daunted, shall my weaker heart avail 
 That on thy strength was rested?" 

 "Nay," said he, 
 "Not fear, but anguish at the issuing cry 
 So pales me. Come ye, for the path we tread 
 Is long, and time requires it." Here he led 
 Through the first entrance of the ringed abyss, 
 Inward, and I went after, and the woe 
 Softened behind us, and around I heard 
 Nor scream of torment, nor blaspheming word, 
 But round us sighs so many and deep there came 
 That all the air was motioned. I beheld 
 Concourse of men and women and children there 
 Countless. No pain was theirs of cold or flame, 
 But sadness only. And my Master said, 
 "Art silent here? Before ye further go 
 Among them wondering, it is meet ye know 
 They are not sinful, nor the depths below 
 Shall claim them. But their lives of righteousness 
 Sufficed not to redeem. The gate decreed, 
 Being born too soon, we did not pass ( for I, 
 Dying unbaptized, am of them). More nor less 
 Our doom is weighed, - to feel of Heaven the need, 
 To long, and to be hopeless." 
 was mine 
 That heard him, thinking what great names must be 
 In this suspense around me. "Master, tell," 
 I questioned, "from this outer girth of Hell 
 Pass any to the blessed spheres exalt, 
 Through other's merits or their own the fault. 
 Condoned?" And he, my covert speech that read, 
 - For surance sought I of my faith, - replied, 
 "Through the shrunk hells there came a Great One, crowned 
 And garmented with conquest. Of the dead, 
 He rescued from us him who earliest died, 
 Abel, and our first parent. Here He found, 
 Abraham, obedient to the Voice he heard; 
 And Moses, first who wrote the Sacred Word; 
 Isaac, and Israel and his sons, and she, 
 Rachel, for whom he travailed; and David, king; 
 And many beside unnumbered, whom he led 
 Triumphant from the dark abodes, to be 
 Among the blest for ever. Until this thing 
 I witnessed, none, of all the countless dead, 
 But hopeless through the somber gate he came." 

 Now while he spake he paused not, but pursued, 
 Through the dense woods of thronging spirits, his aim 
 Straight onward, nor was long our path until 
 Before us rose a widening light, to fill 
 One half of all the darkness, and I knew 
 While yet some distance, that such Shades were there 
 As nobler moved than others, and questioned, "Who, 
 Master, are those that in their aspect bear 
 Such difference from the rest?" 
 these," he said, 
 "Were named so glorious in thy earth above 
 That Heaven allows their larger claim to be 
 Select, as thus ye see them." 
 he spake 
 A voice rose near us: "Hail!" it cried, "for he 
 Returns, who was departed." 
 it ceased 
 When four great spirits approached. They did not show 
 Sadness nor joy, but tranquil-eyed as though 
 Content in their dominion moved. My guide 
 Before I questioned told, "That first ye see, 
 With hand that fits the swordhilt, mark, for he 
 Is Homer, sovereign of the craft we tried, 
 Leader and lord of even the following three, - 
 Horace, and Ovid, and Lucan. The voice ye heard, 
 That hailed me, caused them by one impulse stirred 
 Approach to do me honour, for these agree 
 In that one name we boast, and so do well 
 Owning it in me." There was I joyed to meet 
 Those shades, who closest to his place belong, 
 The eagle course of whose out-soaring song 
 Is lonely in height. 
 Some space apart (to
 It may be, something of myself ), my guide 
 Conversed, until they turned with grace to greet 
 Me also, and my Master smiled to see 
 They made me sixth and equal. Side by side 
 We paced toward the widening light, and spake 
 Such things as well were spoken there, and here 
 Were something less than silence. 
 Strong and wide 
 Before us rose a castled height, beset 
 With sevenfold-circling walls, unscalable, 
 And girdled with a rivulet round, but yet 
 We passed thereover, and the water clear 
 As dry land bore me; and the walls ahead 
 Their seven strong gates made open one by one, 
 As each we neared, that where my Master led 
 With ease I followed, although without were none 
 But deep that stream beyond their wading spread, 
 And closed those gates beyond their breach had been, 
 Had they sought entry with us. 
 coolest green 
 Stretched the wide lawns we midmost found, for there, 
 Intolerant of itself, was Hell made fair 
 To accord with its containing. 
 Quiet-voiced and slow, of seldom words were they 
 That walked that verdure. 
 To a
 place aside 
 Open, and light, and high, we passed, and here 
 Looked downward on the lawns, in clear survey 
 Of such great spirits as are my glory and pride 
 That once I saw them. 
 There, direct in
 Electra passed, among her sons. I knew 
 Hector and &Aelig;neas there; and C?sar too 
 Was of them, armed and falcon-eyed; and there 
 Camilla and Penthesilea. Near there sate 
 Lavinia, with her sire the Latian king; 
 Brutus, who drave the Tarquin; and Lucrece 
 Julia, Cornelia, Marcia, and their kin; 
 And, by himself apart, the Saladin. 

 Somewhat beyond I looked. A place more high 
 Than where these heroes moved I gazed, and knew 
 The Master of reasoned thought, whose hand withdrew 
 The curtain of the intellect, and bared 
 The secret things of nature; while anigh, 
 But lowlier, grouped the greatest names that shared 
 His searchings. All regard and all revere 
 They gave him. Plato there, and Socrates 
 I marked, who closeliest reached his height; and near 
 Democritus, who dreamed a world of chance 
 Born blindly in the whirl of circumstance; 
 And Anaxagoras, Diogenes, 
 Thales, Heraclitus, Empedocles, 
 Zeno, were there; and Dioscorides 
 Who searched the healing powers of herbs and trees; 
 And Orpheus, Tullius, Livius, Seneca, 
 Euclid and Ptolem?us; Avicenna, 
 Galen, Hippocrates; Averrho?s, 
 The Master's great interpreter, - but these 
 Are few to those I saw, an endless dream 
 Of shades before whom Hell quietened and cowered. My theme, 
 With thronging recollections of mighty names 
 That there I marked impedes me. All too long 
 They chase me, envious that my burdened song 
 Forgets. - But onward moves my guide anew: 
 The light behind us fades: the six are two: 
 Again the shuddering air, the cries of Hell 
 Compassed, and where we walked the darkness fell. 

Canto V 

 MOST like the spirals of a pointed shell, 
 But separate each, go downward, hell from hell, 
 The ninefold circles of the damned; but each 
 Smaller, concentrate in its greater pain, 
 Than that which overhangs it. 
 who reach 
 The second whorl, on entering, learn their bane 
 Where Minos, hideous, sits and snarls. He hears, 
 Decides, and as he girds himself they go. 

 Before his seat each ill-born spirit appear, 
 And tells its tale of evil, loath or no, 
 While he, their judge, of all sins cognizant, 
 Hears, and around himself his circling tail 
 Twists to the number of the depths below 
 To which they doom themselves in telling. 

 The crowding sinners: their turn they wait: they show 
 Their guilt: the circles of his tail convey 
 Their doom: and downward they are whirled away. 

 "O thou who callest at this doleful inn," 
 Cried Minos to me, while the child of sin 
 That stood confessing before him, trembling stayed, 
 "Heed where thou enterest in thy trust, nor say, 
 I walk in safety, for the width of way 
 But my guide the answer took, 
 "Why dost thou cry? or leave thine ordered trade 
 For that which nought belongs thee? Hinder not 
 His destined path. For where he goeth is willed, 
 Where that is willed prevaileth." 
 was filled 
 The darker air with wailing. Wailing shook 
 My soul to hear it. Where we entered now 
 No light attempted. Only sound arose, 
 As ocean with the tortured air contends, 
 What time intolerable tempest rends 
 The darkness; so the shrieking winds oppose 
 For ever, and bear they, as they swerve and sweep, 
 The doomed disastrous spirits, and whirl aloft, 
 Backward, and down, nor any rest allow, 
 Nor pause of such contending wraths as oft 
 Batter them against the precipitous sides, and there 
 The shrieks and moanings quench the screaming air, 
 The cries of their blaspheming. 
 are they 
 That lust made sinful. As the starlings rise 
 At autumn, darkening all the colder skies, 
 In crowded troops their wings up-bear, so here 
 These evil-doers on each contending blast 
 Were lifted upward, whirled, and downward cast, 
 And swept around unceasing. Striving airs 
 Lift them, and hurl, nor ever hope is theirs 
 Of rest or respite or decreasing pains, 
 But like the long streaks of the calling cranes 
 So came they wailing down the winds, to meet 
 Upsweeping blasts that ever backward beat 
 Or sideward flung them on their walls. And I - 
 "Master who are they next that drive anigh 
 So scourged amidst the blackness?" 

 "These," he said, 
 "So lashed and harried, by that queen are led, 
 Empress of alien tongues, Semiramis, 
 Who made her laws her lawless lusts to kiss, 
 So was she broken by desire; and this 
 Who comes behind, back-blown and beaten thus, 
 Love's fool, who broke her faith to Sich?us, 
 Dido; and bare of all her luxury, 
 Nile's queen, who lost her realm for Antony." 

 And after these, amidst that windy train, 
 Helen, who soaked in blood the Trojan plain, 
 And great Achilles I saw, at last whose feet 
 The same net trammelled; and Tristram, Paris, he showed; 
 And thousand other along the fated road 
 Whom love led deathward through disastrous things 
 He pointed as they passed, until my mind 
 Was wildered in this heavy pass to find 
 Ladies so many, and cavaliers and kings 
 Fallen, and pitying past restraint, I said, 
 "Poet, those next that on the wind appear 
 So light, and constant as they drive or veer 
 Are parted never, I fain would speak." 

 And he, - 
 "Conjure them by their love, and thou shalt see 
 Their flight come hither." 
 And when the swerving blast 
 Most nearly bent, I called them as they passed, 
 "O wearied souls, come downward, if the Power 
 That drives allow ye, for one restful hour." 
 As doves, desirous of their nest at night, 
 Cleave through the dusk with swift and open flight 
 Of level-lifting wings, that love makes light, 
 Will-borne, so downward through the murky air 
 Came those sad spirits, that not deep Hell's despair 
 Could sunder, parting from the faithless band 
 That Dido led, and with one voice, as though 
 One soul controlled them, spake, 

 "O Animate! 
 Who comest through the black malignant air, 
 Benign among us who this exile bear 
 For earth ensanguined, if the King of All 
 Heard those who from the outer darkness call 
 Entreat him would we for thy peace, that thou 
 Hast pitied us condemned, misfortunate. - 
 Of that which please thee, if the winds allow, 
 Gladly I tell. Ravenna, on that shore 
 Where Po finds rest for all his streams, we knew; 
 And there love conquered. Love, in gentle heart 
 So quick to take dominion, overthrew 
 Him with my own fair body, and overbore 
 Me with delight to please him. Love, which gives 
 No pardon to the loved, so strongly in me 
 Was empired, that its rule, as here ye see, 
 Endureth, nor the bitter blast contrives 
 To part us. Love to one death led us. The mode 
 Afflicts me, shrinking, still. The place of Cain 
 Awaits our slayer." 
 They ceased, and I my head 
 Bowed down, and made no answer, till my guide 
 Questioned, "What wouldst thou more?" and replied, 
 "Alas my thought I what sweet keen longings led 
 These spirits, woeful, to their dark abode!" 
 And then to them, - "Francesca, all thy pain 
 Is mine. With pity and grief I weep. But say 
 How, in the time of sighing, and in what way, 
 Love gave you of the dubious deeds to know." 

 And she to me, "There is no greater woe 
 In all Hell's depths than cometh when those who 
 Look back to Eden. But if thou wouldst learn 
 Our love's first root, I can but weep and tell. 
 One day, and for delight in idleness, 
 - Alone we were, without suspicion, - 
 We read together, and chanced the page to turn 
 Where Galahad tells the tale of Lancelot, 
 How love constrained him. Oft our meeting eyes, 
 Confessed the theme, and conscious cheeks were hot, 
 Reading, but only when that instant came 
 Where the surrendering lips were kissed, no less 
 Desire beat in us, and whom, for all this pain, 
 No hell shall sever (so great at least our gain), 
 Trembling, he kissed my mouth, and all forgot, 
 We read no more." 
 As thus did one confess 
 Their happier days, the other wept, and I 
 Grew faint with pity, and sank as those who die. 

Canto VI 

 THE misery of that sight of souls in Hell 
 Condemned, and constant in their loss, prevailed 
 So greatly in me, that I may not tell 
 How passed I from them, sense and memory failed 
 So far. 
 But here new torments I discern, 
 And new tormented, wheresoe'er I turn. 
 For sodden around me was the place of bane, 
 The third doomed circle, where the culprits know 
 The cold, unceasing, and relentless rain 
 Pour down without mutation. Heavy with hail, 
 With turbid waters mixed, and cold with snow, 
 It streams from out the darkness, and below 
 The soil is putrid, where the impious lie 
 Grovelling, and howl like dogs, beneath the flail 
 That flattens to the foul soaked ground, and try 
 Vainly for ease by turning. And the while 
 Above them roams and ravens the loathsome hound 
 Cerberus, and feeds upon them. 
 The swampy ground 
 He ranges; with his long clawed hands he grips 
 The sinners, and the fierce and hairy lips 
 (Thrice-headed is he) tear, and the red blood drips 
 From all his jaws. He clutches, and flays, and rends, 
 And treads them, growling: and the flood descends 
 Straight downward. 
 When he saw us, the loathly worm 
 Showed all his fangs, and eager trembling frame 
 Nerved for the leap. But undeterred my guide. 
 Stooped down, and gathered in full hands the soil, 
 And cast it in the gaping gullets, to foil 
 Gluttonous blind greed, and those fierce mouths and wide 
 Closed on the filth, and as the craving cur 
 Quietens, that strained and howled to reach his food, 
 Biting the bone, those squalid mouths subdued 
 And silenced, wont above the empty dead 
 To bark insatiate, while they tore unfed 
 The writhing shadows. 
 The straight persistent rain, 
 That altered never, had pressed the miry plain 
 With flattened shades that in their emptiness 
 Still showed as bodies. We might not here progress 
 Except we trod them. Of them all, but one 
 Made motion as we passed. Against the rain 
 Rising, and resting on one hand, he said, 
 "O thou, who through the drenching murk art led, 
 Recall me if thou canst. Thou wast begun 
 Before I ended." 
 I, who looked in vain 
 For human semblance in that bestial shade, 
 Made answer, "Misery here hath all unmade, 
 It may be, that thou wast on earth, for nought 
 Recalls thee to me. But thyself shalt tell 
 The sins that scourged thee to this foul resort, 
 That more displeasing not the scope of Hell 
 Can likely yield, though greater pains may lie 
 More deep." 
 And he to me, "Thy city, so high 
 With envious hates that swells, that now the sack 
 Bursts, and pours out in ruin, and spreads its wrack 
 Far outward, was mine alike, while clearer air 
 Still breathed I. Citizens who knew me there 
 Called me Ciacco. For the vice I fed 
 At rich men's tables, in this filth I lie 
 Drenched, beaten, hungered, cold, uncomforted, 
 Mauled by that ravening greed; and these, as I, 
 With gluttonous lives the like reward have won." 

 I answered, "Piteous is thy state to one 
 Who knew thee in thine old repute, but say, 
 If yet persists thy previous mind, which way 
 The feuds of our rent city shall end, and why 
 These factions vex us, and if still there be 
 One just man left among us." 

 "Two," said he, 
 "Are just, but none regards them. Yet more high 
 The strife, till bloodshed from their long contend 
 Shall issue at last: the barbarous Cerchi clan 
 Cast the Donati exiled out, and they 
 Within three years return, and more offend 
 Than they were erst offended, helped by him 
 So long who palters with both parts. The fire 
 Three sparks have lighted - Avarice, Envy, Pride, - 
 And there is none may quench it." 
 he ceased 
 His lamentable tale, and I replied, 
 "Of one thing more I ask thee. Great desire 
 Is mine to learn it. Where are those who sought 
 Our welfare earlier? Those whose names at least 
 Are fragrant for the public good they wrought, 
 Arrigo, Mosca, and the Tegghiaio 
 Worthiest, and Farinata, and with these 
 Jacopo Rusticucci. I would know 
 If soft in Heaven or bitter-hard in Hell 
 Their lives continue." 
 "Cast in hells
 more low 
 Than yet thou hast invaded, deep they lie, 
 For different crimes from ours, and shouldst thou go 
 So far, thou well mayst see them. If thou tread 
 Again the sweet light land, and overhead 
 Converse with those I knew there, then recall, 
 I pray, my memory to my friends of yore. 
 But ask no further, for I speak no more." 

 Thereon his eyes, that straight had gazed before 
 Squinted and failed, and slowly sank his head, 
 And blindly with his sodden mates he lay. 
 And spake my guide, "He shall not lift nor stir, 
 Until the trumpet shrills that wakens Hell; 
 And these, who must inimical Power obey, 
 Shall each return to his sad grave, and there 
 In carnal form the sinful spirit shall dwell 
 Once more, and that time only, from the tomb 
 Rising to hear the irrevocable doom 
 Which shall reverberate through eternity." 

 So paced we slowly through the rain that fell 
 Unchanging, over that foul ground, and trod 
 The dismal spirits it held, and somewhat spake 
 Of life beyond us, and the things of God; 
 And asked I, "Master, shall these torments cease, 
 Continue as they are, or more increase, 
 When calls the trumpet, and the graves shall break, 
 And the great Sentence sound?" 
 And he
 to me, 
 "Recall thy learning, as thou canst. We know 
 With more perfection, greater pain or bliss 
 Resolves, and though perfection may not be 
 To these accurs'd, yet nearer then than this 
 It may be they shall reach it." 
 to show 
 He sought, as turned we to the fresh descent, 
 But speaking all in such strange words as went 
 Past me. - But ceased our downward path, and 
 Plutus, of human weal the hateful foe. 

Canto VII 

 HAH, strange! ho, Satan!" such the sounds half-heard 
 The thick voice gobbled, the while the foul, inflamed, 
 Distended visage toward us turned, and cast 
 Invective from its bestial throat, that slurred 
 Articulate speech. But here the gentle sage, 
 Who knew beforehand that we faced, to me 
 Spake first, "Regard not; for a threat misaimed 
 Falls idle. Fear not to continue past. 
 His power to us, however else it be, 
 Is not to hinder." Then, that bulk inflate 
 Confronting, - "Peace, thou greed! thy lusting rage 
 Consume thee inward! Not thy word we wait 
 The path to open. It is willed on high, - 
 There, where the Angel of the Sword ye know 
 Took ruin upon the proud adultery 
 Of him thou callest as thy prince." 

 As sails, wind-rounded, when the mast gives way, 
 Sink tangled to the deck, deflated so 
 Collapsed that bulk that heard him, shrunk and flat; 
 And we went downward till before us lay 
 The fourth sad circle. Ah! what woes contain, 
 Justice of God! what woes those narrowing deeps 
 Contain; for all the universe down-heaps 
 In this pressed space its continent of pain, 
 So voiding all that mars its peace. But why 
 This guilt that so degrades us? 
 As the
 Above Charybdis meets contending surge, 
 Breaks and is broken, and rages and recoils 
 For ever, so here the sinners. More numerous 
 Than in the circles past are these. They urge 
 Huge weights before them. On, with straining breasts, 
 They roll them, howling in their ceaseless toils. 
 And those that to the further side belong 
 l)o likewise, meeting in the midst, and thus 
 Crash vainly, and recoil, reverse, and cry, 
 "Why dost thou hold?" "Why dost thou loose?" 
 No rest 
 Their doom permits them. Backward course they bend; 
 Continual crescents trace, at either end 
 Meeting again in fresh rebound, and high 
 Above their travail reproachful howlings rise 
 Incessant at those who thwart their round. 

 And I, 
 Who felt my heart stung through with anguish, said, 
 "O Master, show me who these peoples be, 
 And if those tonsured shades that left we see 
 Held priestly office ere they joined the dead." 

 He answered, "These, who with such squinting eyes 
 Regarded God's providing, that they spent 
 In waste immoderate, indicate their guilt 
 In those loud barkings that ye hear. They spilt 
 Their wealth distemperate; and those they meet 
 Who cry 'Why loose ye?' avarice ruled: they bent 
 Their minds on earth to seize and hoard. Of these 
 Hairless, are priests, and popes, and cardinals, 
 For greed makes empire in such hearts complete." 

 And I, "Among them that these vices eat 
 Are none that I have known on earth before?" 

 He answered, "Vainly wouldst thou seek; a life 
 So blind to bounties has obscured too far 
 The souls once theirs, for that which once they wore 
 Of mortal likeness in their shades to show. 
 Waste was their choice, and this abortive strife 
 And toil unmeaning is the end they are 
 They butt for ever, until the last award 
 Shall call them from their graves. Ill-holding those 
 Ill-loosing these, alike have doomed to know 
 This darkness, and the fairer world forgo. 
 Behold what mockery doth their fate afford! 
 It needs no fineness of spun words to tell. 
 For this they did their subtle wits oppose, 
 Contending for the gifts that Fortune straws 
 So blindly, - for this blind contending hell. 

 "Beneath the moon there is not gold so great 
 In worth, it could one moment's grief abate, 
 Or rest one only of these weary souls." 

 "Master, this Fortune that ye speak, whose claws 
 Grasp all desirable things of earth," I said, 
 "What is she?" 
 "O betrayed in foolishness I 
 Blindness of creatures born of earth, whose goals 
 Are folly and loss!" he answered, "I would make 
 Thy mouth an opening for this truth I show. 

 "Transcendent Wisdom, when the spheres He built 
 Gave each a guide to rule it: more nor less 
 Their light distributes. For the earth he gave 
 Like guide to rule its splendours. As we know 
 The heavenly lights move round us, and is spilt 
 Light here, and darkness yonder, so doth she 
 From man to man, from race and kindred take 
 Alternate wealth, or yield it. None may save 
 The spoil that she depriveth: none may flee 
 The bounty that she wills. No human wits 
 May hinder, nor may human lore reject 
 Her choice, that like a hidden snake is set 
 To reach the feet unheeding. Where she sits 
 In judgment, she resolves, and whom she wills 
 Is havened, chased by petulant storms, or wreck ' 
 Remedeless. Races cease, and men forget 
 They were. Slaves rise to rule their lords. She 
 And empties, godlike in her mood. No pause 
 Her changes leave, so many are those who call 
 About her gates, so many she dowers, and all 
 Revile her after, and would crucify 
 If words could reach her, but she heeds nor hears, 
 Who dwells beyond the noise of human laws 
 In the blest silence of the Primal Spheres. 

 - But let us to the greater woes descend. 
 The stars from their meridian fall, that rose 
 When first these hells we entered. Long to stay 
 Our right of path allows not." 
 he spake 
 We crossed the circle to the bank beyond, 
 And found a hot spring boiling, and a way, 
 Dark, narrow, and steep, that down beside it goes, 
 By which we clambered. Purple-black the pond 
 Beneath it, widening to a marsh that spreads 
 Far out, and struggling in that slime malign 
 Were muddied shades, that not with hands, heads, 
 And teeth and feet besides, contending tore, 
 And maimed each other in beast-like rage. 

 My guide 
 Expounded, "Those whom anger overbore 
 On earth, behold ye. Mark the further sign 
 Of bubbles countless on the slime that show. 
 These from the sobs of those immersed arise; 
 For buried in the choking filth they cry, 
 We once were sullen in the rain-sweet air, 
 When waked the light, and all the earth was fair, 
 How sullen in the murky swamp we lie 
 Forbidden from the blessed light on high. 
 This song they gurgle in their throats, that so 
 The bubbles rising from the depths below 
 Break all the surface of the slime." 

 The high bank and the putrid swamp was seen 
 A narrow path, and this, a sweeping arc, 
 We traversed; outward o'er the surface dark 
 Still gazing, at the choking shades who took 
 That diet for their wrath. Till livelier look 
 Was forward drawn, for where at last we came 
 A great tower fronted, and a beacon's flame. 

Canto VIII 

 I SAY, while yet from that tower's base afar, 
 We saw two flames of sudden signal rise, 
 And further, like a small and distant star, 
 A beacon answered. 
 "What before us lies? 
 Who signals our approach, and who replies?" 
 I asked, and answered he who all things knew, 
 "Already, if the swamp's dank fumes permit, 
 The outcome of their beacon shows in view, 
 Severing the liquid filth." 
 No shaft can slit 
 Impalpable air, from any corded bow, 
 As came that craft towards us, cleaving so, 
 And with incredible speed, the miry wave. 
 To where we paused its meteor course it clave, 
 A steersman rising in the stern, who cried, 
 "Behold thy doom, lost spirit!" To whom my guide, 
 "Nay, Phlegyas, Phlegyas, here thy cries are 
 We need thine aid the further shore to gain; 
 But power thou hast not." 
 One amazed to meet 
 With most unlooked and undeserved deceit 
 So rages inly; yet no dared reply 
 There came, as down my Leader stept, and I 
 Deepened the skiff with earthly weight undue, 
 Which while we seated swung its bows anew 
 Outward, and onward once again it flew, 
 Labouring more deep than wont, and slowlier now, 
 So burdened. 
 While that kennel of filth we clave, 
 There rose among the bubbles a mud-soaked head. 
 "Who art thou, here before thy time?" it said, 
 And answer to the unfeatured mask I gave, 
 "I come, but stay not. Who art thou, so blind 
 And blackened from the likeness of thy kind?" 

 "I have no name, but only tears," said he. 

 I answered, "Nay, however caked thou be, 
 I know thee through the muddied drench. For thee 
 Be weeping ever, accursed spirit." 

 At that, 
 He reached his hands to grasp the boat, whereat 
 My watchful Master thrust him down, and cried, 
 "Away, among the dogs, thy fellows!" and then 
 To me with approbation, "Blest art thou, 
 Who wouldst not pity in thy heart allow 
 For these, in arrogance of empty pride 
 Who lived so vainly. In the minds of men 
 Is no good thing of this one left to tell, 
 And hence his rage. How many above that dwell, 
 Now kinglike in their ways, at last shall lie 
 Wallowing in these wide marshes, swine in sty, 
 With all men's scorn to chase them down." 

 And I, 
 "Master, it were a seemly thing to see 
 This boaster trampled in the putrid sea, 
 Who dared approach us, knowing of all we know." 

 He answered, "Well thy wish, and surely so 
 It shall be, e'er the distant shore we view." 
 And I looked outward through the gloom, and lo! 
 The envious eaters of that dirt combined 
 Against him, leapt upon him, before, behind, 
 Dragged in their fury, and rent, and tore him through, 
 Screaming derisive, "Philip! whose horse-hooves shine 
 With silver," and the rageful Florentine 
 Turned on himself his gnashing teeth and tore. 

 But he deserveth, and I speak, no more. 

 Now, as we neared the further beach, I heard 
 The lamentable and unceasing wail 
 By which the air of all the hells is stirred 
 Increasing ever, which caused mine eyes unveil 
 Their keenest vision to search what came, and he 
 Who marked, indulgent, told. "Ahead we see 
 The city of Dis, with all its dolorous crew, 
 Numerous, and burdened with reliefless pain, 
 And guilt intolerable to think." 

 I said, 
 "Master, already through the night I view 
 The mosques of that sad city, that fiery red 
 As heated metal extend, and crowd the plain." 
 He answered, "These the eternal fire contain, 
 That pulsing through them sets their domes aglow." 
 At this we came those joyless walls below, 
 - Of iron I thought them, - with a circling moat; 
 But saw no entrance, and the burdened boat 
 Traced the deep fosse for half its girth, before 
 The steersman warned us. "Get ye forth. The shore 
 Is here, - and there the Entrance." 
 The entrance. On the barred and burning gate 
 I gazed; a thousand of the fiends that rained 
 From Heaven, to fill that place disconsolate, 
 Looked downward, and derided. "Who," they said, 
 "Before his time comes hither? As though the dead 
 Arrive too slowly for the joys they would," 
 And laughter rocked along their walls. My guide 
 Their mockery with an equal mien withstood, 
 Signalling their leaders he would speak aside, 
 And somewhat closing their contempt they cried, 
 "Then come thou hither, and let him backward go, 
 Who came so rashly. Let him find his way 
 Through the five hells ye traversed, the best he may. 
 He can but try it awhile! - But thou shalt stay, 
 And learn the welcome of these halls of woe." 

 Ye well may think how I, discomforted 
 By these accursed words, was moved. The dead, 
 Nay, nor the living were ever placed as I, 
 If this fiends' counsel triumphed. And who should try 
 That backward path unaided? 

 "Lord," I said, 
 "Loved Master, who hast shared my steps so far, 
 And rescued ever, if these our path would bar, 
 Then lead me backward in most haste, nor let 
 Their malice part us." 
 He with cheerful
 Gave answer. "Heed not that they boast. Forget 
 The fear thou showest, and in good heart abide, 
 While I go forward. Not these fiends obscene 
 Shall thwart the mandate that the Power supplied 
 By which we came, nor any force to do 
 The things they threaten is theirs; nor think that I 
 Should leave thee helpless here." 
 gentle Sage 
 At this went forward. Feared I? Half I knew 
 Despair, and half contentment. Yes and no 
 Denied each other; and of so great a woe 
 Small doubt is anguish. 
 In their orgulous
 The fiends out-crowded from the gates to meet 
 My Master; what he spake I could not hear; 
 But nothing his words availed to cool their heat, 
 For inward thronged they with a jostling rear 
 That clanged the gates before he reached, and he 
 Turned backward slowly, muttering, "Who to me 
 Denies the woeful houses?" This he said 
 Sighing, with downcast aspect and disturbed 
 Beyond concealment; yet some length he curbed 
 His anxious thought to cheer me. "Doubt ye nought 
 Of power to hurt in these fiends insolent; 
 For once the wider gate on which ye read 
 The words of doom, with greater pride, they sought 
 To close against the Highest. Already is bent 
 A great One hereward, whose unhindered way 
 Descends the steeps unaided. He shall say 
 Such words as must the trembling hells obey." 

Canto IX 

 I THINK the paleness of the fear I showed 
 When he, rejected from that conference, 
 Rejoined me, caused him speak more confident 
 Than felt he inly. For the glance he sent 
 Through the dense darkness of the backward road 
 Denied the valour of his words' pretence; 
 And pausing there with anxious listening mien, 
 While came no sound, nor any help was seen, 
 He muttered, "Yet we must this conflict win, 
 For else - But whom her aid has pledged herein - 
 How long before he cometh!" And plain I knew 
 His words turned sideward from the ending due 
 They first portended. Faster beat my fear, 
 Methinks, than had he framed in words more clear 
 The meaning that his care withheld. 

 I said, 
 "Do others of the hopeless, sinless, dead, 
 Who with thee in the outmost circle dwell, 
 Come ever downward to the narrowing hell 
 That now we traverse?" 
 "Once Erichtho
 He answered, "conjured to such end that I, 
 - Who then short time had passed to those who die, - 
 Came here, controlled by her discerning spell, 
 And entered through these hostile gates, and drew 
 A spirit from the darkest, deepest pit, 
 The place of Judas named, that centres Hell. 
 The path I learnt, and all its dangers well. 
 Content thine heart. This foul-stretched marsh surrounds 
 The dolorous city to its furthest bounds. 
 Without, the dense mirk, and the bubbling mire: 
 Within, the white-hot pulse of eating fire, 
 Whence this fiend-anger thwarts. . .," and more he said, 
 To save me doubtless from my thoughts, but I 
 Heeded no more, for by the beacons red 
 That on the lofty tower before us glowed, 
 Three bloodstained and infernal furies showed, 
 Erect, of female form in guise and limb, 
 But clothed in coils of hydras green and grim; 
 And with cerastes bound was every head, 
 And for its crown of hair was serpented; 
 And he, who followed my diverted gaze, 
 The handmaids of the Queen of Woeful Days 
 Well knowing, told me, "These the Furies three. 
 Meg?ra leftward: on the right is she 
 Alecto, wailing: and Tisiphone 
 These hateful, in their need of prey, 
 Tore their own breasts with bloodied claws, and when 
 They saw me, from the living world of men, 
 Beneath them standing, with one purpose they 
 Cried, and so loudly that I shrank for fear, 
 "Medusa! let her from her place appear, 
 To change him into stone! Our first default 
 That venged no wrath on Theseus' deep assault, 
 So brings him." 
 "Turn thou from their sight," my guide 
 Enjoined, nor wholly on my fear relied, 
 But placed his hands across mine eyes the while 
 He told me further "Risk no glance. The sight 
 Of Gorgon, if she cometh, would bring thee night 
 From which were no returning." 
 that read 
 With wisdom to discern, ye well may heed 
 The hidden meaning of the truth that lies 
 Beneath the shadow-words of mysteries 
 That here I show ye. 
 While I turned away,

 Across the blackness of the putrid bay, 
 There crashed a thunder of most fearful sound, 
 At which the opposing shores, from bound to bound, 
 As when an entering tempest rends 
 The brooding heat, and nought its course can stay, 
 That through the forest its dividing way 
 Tears open, and tramples down, and strips, and bends, 
 And levels. The wild things in the woods that be 
 Cower down. The herdsmen from its trumpets flee. 
 With clouds of dust to trace its course it goes, 
 Superb, and leaving ruin. Such sound arose. 
 And he that held me loosened mine eyes, and said, 
 "Look back, and see what foam the black waves bear." 

 As frogs, the while the serpent picks his prey, 
 In panic scatter through the stream, and there 
 Flatten themselves upon its bouldered bed, 
 I saw a thousand ruined spirits that fled 
 Before the coming of One who held his way 
 Dry-shod across the water. 
 left hand 
 He waved before him, and the stagnant air 
 Retreated. Simple it were to understand 
 A Messenger of Heaven he came. My guide 
 Signed me to silence, and to reverence due, 
 While to one stroke of his indignant wand 
 The gate swung open. "Outcast spawn!" he cried, 
 His voice heard vibrant through the aperture grim, 
 "Why spurn ye at the Will that, once defied, 
 Here cast ye grovelling? Have ye felt from Him 
 Aught ever for fresh revolt but harder pains? 
 Has Cerberus' throat, skinned with the threefold chains, 
 No meaning? Why, to fate most impotent, 
 Contend ye vainly?" 
 Then he turned and went, 
 Nor one glance gave us, but he seemed as one 
 Whom larger issue than the instant done 
 Engages wholly. 
 By that Power compelled, 
 The gates stood open, and our course we held 
 Unhindered. As the threshold dread we crossed, 
 My eager glances swept the scene to know, 
 In those doomed walls imprisoned, how lived the lost. 

 On either hand a wide plain stretched, to show 
 A sight of torment, and most dismal woe. 

 At Arles, where the stagnant Rhone extends, 
 Or Pola, where the gulf Quarnero bends, 
 As with old tombs the plains are ridged, so here, 
 All sides, did rows of countless tombs appear, 
 But in more bitter a guise, for everywhere 
 Shone flames, that moved among them. 

 Every tomb 
 Stood open, white with heat. No craft requires 
 More heated metal than the crawling fires 
 Made hot the sides of those sad sepulchres; 
 And cries of torture and most dire despair 
 Came from them, as the spirits wailed their doom. 

 I said, "Who are they, in these chests that lie 
 Confined, and join in this lamenting cry?" 

 My Master answered, "These in life denied 
 The faith that saves, and that resisting pride 
 Here brought them. With their followers, like to like, 
 Assorted are they, and the keen flames strike 
 With differing anguish, to the same degree 
 They reached in their rebellion." 
 he spake 
 Rightward he turned, a narrow path to take 
 Between them and that high-walled boundary. 

Canto X 

 FIRST went my Master, for the space was small 
 Between the torments and the lofty wall, 
 And I behind him. 
 "O controlling Will," 
 I spake, "who leadest through such hates, and still 
 Prevailest for me, wilt thou speak, that who 
 Within these tombs are held mine eyes may see? 
 For lifted are they, and unwatched." 

 And he, - 
 "The lids stand open till the time arrive 
 When to the valley of Jehoshaphat 
 They each must wend, and earthly flesh resume, 
 And back returning, as the swarming hive, 
 From condemnation, each the doleful tomb 
 Re-enter wailing, and the lids thereat 
 Be bolted. Here in fitting torment lie 
 The Epicurean horde, who dared deny 
 That soul outlasts its mortal home. Is here 
 Their leader, and his followers round him. Soon 
 Shall all thy wish be granted, - and the boon 
 Ye hold in secret." 
 "Kind my
 guide," I said, 
 "I was not silent to conceal, but thou 
 Didst teach, when in thy written words I read, 
 That in brief speech is wisdom." 

 Here a voice 
 Behind me, "Tuscan, who canst walk at choice 
 Untouched amidst the torments, wilt thou stay? 
 For surely native of the noble land 
 Where once I held my too-audacious way, 
 Discreet of speech, thou comest." 
 sudden cry 
 So close behind me from the chests that came, 
 First drove me closer to my guide, but he, - 
 "What dost thou? Turn thee!" - and a kindly hand 
 Impelled me, fearful, where the crawling flame 
 Was all around me, - "Lift thine eyes and see, 
 For there is Farinata. Be thou short 
 In speech, for time is failing." 
 of hell 
 Was in the eyes that met me. Hard he wrought 
 To raise himself, till girdle-deep I knew 
 The greatest of the fierce Uberti crew, 
 Who asked me, with contempt near-waiting, "Tell 
 Of whom thou art descended?" 
 Concealing nothing. With lifted brows he eyed 
 My face in silence some brief while, and then, - 
 "Foes were they ever to my part, and me. 
 It yet must linger in the minds of men 
 How twice I broke them." 
 "Twice ye learned them
 - I answered boldly, - "but they twice returned; 
 And others fled more late who have not learned 
 The mode of that returning." 
 Here a
 Arose beside him, only to the chin 
 Revealed: I think it knelt. Beyond and round 
 It rather looked than at me. Nought it found. 
 Thereat it wept, and asked me, "Ye that go 
 Unhindered through these homes of gateless woe, - 
 Is my son with thee? Hast thou nought to tell?" 

 I answered, "Single through the gates of hell